KCI Airport Art Project Moves Ahead Led by Public Art Consultant Community Arts International

Officials from the San Francisco-Based Nonprofit Get Input from Municipal Art Commission and Other KC Arts Community Stakeholders

Representatives of the recently chosen public art consultant for the KCI single terminal project introduced themselves and asked for input at a Feb. 3 meeting of the city’s Municipal Art Commission.

“We are in the process of reaching out,” said Elsa Cameron, president and chief curator of Community Arts International (CAI), a San Francisco-based nonprofit. “We hope you tell artists to apply, so we will get a broad representation. We need your help.”

Cameron said CAI representatives had been meeting with officials from the Kansas City Art Institute, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Michael Lerner, Community Arts International vice president, told MAC members that CAI has worked with 11 airports around the world “to choose the best art to stand the test of time.”

James Martin (Kansas City Communications Office; photo by Jose Gonzalez)

CAI was recommended in December by James Martin, the city’s public art administrator. CAI now is working with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the architect for the new terminal. A $59,000 Phase 1 contract between CAI and SOM, which is scheduled to run for three months, includes a listing of specific sites in the project area for public art and a budget for individual art pieces. Funding for Phase 1 will come from the KCI terminal project.

MAC member Jack Holland, president of the Kansas City Parks & Recreation Board of Commissioners, said some panel members are concerned that MAC was brought in “late in the game” in terms of public art choices for the reconfigured airport. Holland’s comment reflected similar sentiments expressed earlier by former MAC members and others.

“We are collaborating with you going forward,” responded Jordan Pierce, an architect with SOM. “We are at your disposal.”

Most of the MAC members at the Feb. 3 meeting were new to the commission, which is an appointed panel of volunteers. The new chair is attorney Meghan Lewis. Two of the new members, David Wayne Reed and Christel Highland, were selected at the Feb. 3 meeting to serve on an executive subcommittee for public art for the single terminal project. Another new MAC member, Hector Casanova, was chosen as an alternate member of the subcommittee. The subcommittee also will include representatives of the city and companies working on the airport project, as well as consultants and artists.

Five Area Artists to be Selected as Airport Art Project Advisors

Martin said the first task of the executive subcommittee is to select up to five project advisory artists, based in the Kansas City metro area, for the new single terminal and garage, which are slated for completion in 2023.

“After the project advisory artists have been selected, the executive subcommittee is envisioned as staying active throughout the life of the single terminal project,” Martin said in an email to “KC Studio.” “For One Percent for Art projects at the KCI single terminal, executive subcommittee members have been envisioned as participating on artist selection panels. Participants for artist selection panels will be approved by the Municipal Art Commission, in accordance with One Percent for Art Program tradition.”

After an artist selection panel has chosen an artist or artists for a commission, works of art by the selected artist or artists will be approved by the Municipal Art Commission, as outlined in the city charter, Martin said.

Contracts for works of art commissioned by the One Percent for Art Program with budgets exceeding $400,000 must be approved by City Council, Martin noted.

Martin told MAC members that a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) had been issued for project advisory artist candidates. According to the RFQ, the positions are open to “Kansas City metro-based professional artists (visual and/or performance).”

The project advisory artists will perform approximately 30 hours of work from about March through May of 2020. Each project advisory artist will be contracted at $100 an hour, not to exceed $3,000. Those chosen will not be eligible to create artwork for the new single terminal and garage through the city’s One Percent for Art program. Inquiries and required materials for the project advisory artist positions were due Feb. 21.

An earlier plan, which was set aside due to time pressures, called for the project advisory artists to be chosen by a selection panel through an open call. Martin said the RFQ will streamline the process, now that construction of the airport project is moving ahead.

The total cost of the single terminal project, which includes a new garage, has been budgeted for $1.5 billion. Based on the $565 million vertical construction cost of the new terminal and garage, the city’s One Percent for Art program calls for about $5.65 million to fund public art at the reconfigured airport. That figure represents the biggest art budget in the 29-year history of the program.

KCI new terminal rendering. The $1.5 billion project includes $5.65 million for public art, the biggest art budget in the history of the city’s One Percent for Art program. (courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP [SOM])

Julius Karash

Julius A. Karash is a freelance writer, editor and public relations person. He formerly was a business reporter for the Kansas City Star and executive editor of KC Business magazine. He devours business and economic news, and is keenly interested in the relationship between arts and economic development in the Kansas City area.

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